In A Leaked Memo, The Recording Academy Says It’s Investigating Sexual Harassment & Corruption Claims
A pair of leaked memos reveal the Recording Academy is investigating sexual harassment allegations made by former president and CEO Deborah Dugan. The documents also reveal that they are looking into Dugan’s claims that the Grammys are rigged, according to Variety, who has seen the memos sent by the the interim CEO and board chairman of the Recording Academy Harvey Mason Jr., to Academy officials. But, the memos also question Dugan’s claims, stating that “it is clear to [the Recording Academy] that the allegations she has made are either completely untrue or grossly misleading.”
While the Academy says it’s making efforts to address claims, the memos are short on specifics as to how they will tackle them, according to Variety. The reason, the Academy states, is confidentiality. However, the memos specifically address Dugan’s sexual harassment allegation against the Academy’s longtime outside attorney Joel Katz. Dugan claimed Katz tried to kiss her at a private dinner after she accepted the CEO job. Katz has denied the allegation. “We take that allegation very seriously and it is being independently investigated by a law firm with no previous ties to the Academy,” the memo reportedly states.
Variety reported that the memo does not mention an earlier rape allegation against former Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow by an artist who is a member of the Academy. In January, Portnow released a statement claiming that the allegation received a full independent investigation, resulting in his exoneration.
After Dugan’s sudden removal in January for an “allegation of misconduct” thought to be made by Claudia Little, an executive assistant who claims Dugan had a “bullying” management style, Dugan filed a formal discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In her complaint, Dugan detailed how the Grammys organization allegedly facilitated a toxic work environment that included sexual harassment, racial and gender discrimination, and a plot to oust her from her position by putting pressure on her former executive assistant to make “baseless legal claims” against her.
In that same EEOC complaint, Dugan claimed that the process of Grammy nominations is “corrupted” in favor of artists for whom board members have relationships with. The Recording Academy denied these allegations in a statement to Pitchfork and in this memo continue to refute Dugan’s claims of corruption.
“Her outrageous assertion that the Grammys are ‘rigged’ is utterly false,” the memos reportedly state. They do acknowledge though that “the nomination and voting process needs to be better understood” and are taking steps to “make it more public and to educate people about how it works to preserve fairness and protect Nominations Review Committee members from lobbying and pressure.”
The memo also states that the Recording Academy will reinstate the Grammys Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. The group, led by Time’s Up’s Tina Tchen, disbanded in December after making its suggestions for how the Academy could become more inclusive.
In the memos, Mason asks for patience and support from the Academy’s members as they continue their investigations. “We are confident,” he wrote, “that when we are able to share all the facts, our members, the industry, and the public will understand that all our actions have been appropriate and in the interest of making progress towards our shared goals of diversity, inclusion, and our mission to recognize musical excellence, advocate for the well-being of music makers, and ensure that music remains an indelible part of our culture.”
Refinery29 reached out to Dugan's legal reps for a statement.